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Chief Ahamba, SAN, Drags Okorocha’s CPS to Court over Defamation

ahamba*Seeks two billion Naira compensation*

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria [SAN], Chief Mike Ikenna Ahamba, KSC, Principal Counsel of M.I Ahamba & Co [above]

is set to drag the Chief Press Secretary [CPS] to the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha through the muds of Owerri High Court over some careless statements attributed to him.

The CPS to Governor Okorocha, Sam Onwuemeodo had maliciously asserted in “White Paper” tabloid that “Chief Ahamba…has no record of legal success in election petition cases, and the current one he is handling for the PDP and its governorship candidate in the 2015 election wouldn’t be an exception”, thereby reducing the legal luminary to a bench-warmer rather than the defender of the oppressed that he is.

It could be recalled that the claimant also was the lead counsel in the most celebrated Presidential election petition case in Nigeria between Mohammadu Buhari & Anor and Umaru Yar’Adua both at the Court of Appeal which was the Court of first instance in presidential election petitions, and at the Supreme Court where a decision of the apex Court was 4 to 3.

Of course this is not the first time we are hearing from Chief Ahamba in lieu to Governor Okorocha.  In a press statement issued on 4th of July 2015 and signed by the legal luminary, Chief Ahamba had accused Okorocha of threatening his life. [See also the attached press statement titled “Governor Rochas Okorocha Is Threatening My Life” marked “Attachment “B””]

Attached below is the copy of the suit filed at the Owerri High Court:

 

IN THE HIGH COURT OF IMO STATE OF NIGERIAN

IN THE OWERRI JUDICIAL DIVISION

HOLDEN AT OWERRI

SUIT NO:……………………………….

BETWEEN

CHIEF M.I. AHAMBA, SAN : : : : : CLAIMANT

AND

1. SAM ONWUEMEODO

2. WHITE PAPER MEDIA LIMITED DEFENDANTS

3.OGADI S. OGADI

STATEMENT OF CLAIM

1. The claimant is a legal practitioner of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) with wide range of clientele within and outside Nigeria. The claimant is also a notable politician in Nigeria and former member of the Imo State House of Assembly (1979-1983), during which he was the Minority Chief whip in the assembly.

2. The 1st defendant is a political office holder being the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha. The 3rd defendant is the MD/Editor-in-chief of ‘White Paper’ Newspaper and in that capacity is in charge of maintaining fairness of publications in the newspaper within acceptable journalistic standards.

3. The 1st defendant is also the proprietor of ‘WHITE PAPER’ Newspaper (2nd defendant) based in Owerri.

4. The 2nd defendant is a corporate body engaged in Newspaper publication and publishes a local tabloid newspaper, the ‘WHITE PAPER’.

5. The ‘White Paper’ Newspaper is widely circulated and read all over Imo State and the country with a known daily circulation of more than 500,000 copies.

6. In the 8th-9th July, 2015 edition of the White Paper, specifically at page 12 therein, the defendants, without any probable cause or justification, falsely and maliciously published of and concerning the claimant, which malicious publication was personally signed by the 1st defendant, the following statement containing highly derogatory and defamatory words of and concerning the professional business of the complainant:

“Chief Ahamba is a well-known lawyer in the state and even beyond. He is also highly respected both in the legal profession and outside the profession. But he does not in any way constitute any threat to the popular mandate given by Imo People to Governor Okorocha to govern them for the next four years.

Chief Ahamba might have also won many cases in Court but such cases do not include election petition matters. He has no record of legal success in election petition cases, and the current one he is handling for the PDP and its governorship candidate in the 2015 election wouldn’t be an exception” (emphasis supplied)

The said back-page of the Newspaper, that is page 12 of the edition is hereby specifically pleaded and shall be founded upon at the trial. The defendants are hereby given notice to produce a copy of the said Newspaper.

7. The above quoted words were read and understood by numerous Nigerians and teeming admirers, lovers and others who knew the claimant, and had accepted him as a competent and diligent lawyer particularly in election petition matters, to mean that the claimant is an incompetent lawyer who cannot handle election petition cases and who cannot be trusted to conduct election petition cases in election petition Tribunals and Courts, having lost all such cases in the past and was thus a professional risk for anyone who hires his services in election petition cases.

8. Since after this false and malicious publication, the claimant has been treated with scorn and suspicion by his clients, colleagues and numerous admirers. For that reason, election petitioners and respondents have avoided the claimant during this period of election petition on the 2015 general elections believing that their previous assessment and opinion of the claimant was misguided.

9. The libelous publication was brazenly intended to damage the long time professional reputation of the claimant who was called to the noble profession (the legal profession) to practice as Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria since 1974, and who has maintained a high standard of practice at the Bar which earned him the privilege of being conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1992, the apex of all the privileges at the Bar, in less than nineteen years post call.

10. This privilege is only bestowed on deserving legal practitioners who have performed excellently well in their practice as lawyers, devoid of incompetence and laxity in the conduct of their cases in Courts and Tribunals.

11. The claimant had enjoyed high clientele and patronage in both civil, criminal and election petition cases both in Imo State and beyond before the defendants maliciously made this false publication.

12. The false and malicious publication has adversely affected the claimant’s clientele, respect and reputation as the claimant has not had a single election petition brief either at the Tribunal or appeal since the malicious publication was made.

13. This publication which was widely read in the state and beyond, was also published through the electronic medium of the Imo Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) reputed to be the ‘clearest voice East of the Niger’, and, being false in content and malicious in intent, is highly derogatory of the highly reputed legal luminary, the claimant, and of and concerning his profession of law practice. Evidence of the electronic medium publication shall be led at trial. 

14. The defendants’ statement was false in that the claimant was counsel to Chief Achike Udenwa (former Governor of Imo State in the election petition of Chief Ezekiel Izuogu V. Chief Achike Udenwa (Petition No: EPT/IM/G/6/99) in which Chief Udenwa was the successful respondent. Also at the appeal level in CA/PH/EP/87/99 between same parties, in which the claimant was counsel to Chief Udenwa, Chief Udenwa was successful. The Tribunal and Court of Appeal judgments are hereby pleaded

15. In the election petition of Chief Ehirim against ThankGod Ezeani, the claimant was counsel for ThankGod Ezeani both at the Tribunal and Court of Appeal Port Harcourt. Hon ThankGod Ezeani won at both levels. These judgments are hereby also pleaded.

16. The claimant was also counsel to Chief Paul Ogujiofor former Chairman of Okigwe Local Government Council, and Chief Zik Nwachukwu, former Local Government Chairman of Isiala Mbano after the 1998 Local Government elections. Both Chief Ogujiofor and Chief Nwachukwu could not have remained Local Government Council Chairmen if they had lost their election petition cases in which they were respondents and were represented by the claimant. These also constitute legal successes in the legal records of the claimant contrary to the defendants’ malicious publication against the claimant. The claimant hereby pleads the judgment of the LGEP/IM/CH/20/98: Hon. Chris Eboh V. Mr. Paul Ogujiofor & 3 Ors delivered on 13th February, 1999, a certified true copy of which shall be relied upon at the hearing. The judgment of the Court of Appeal in CA/PH/EP/55/99 on the same election is also hereby pleaded and shall also be relied upon.

17. Furthermore, the claimant was counsel for Hon. Jude Okezie in the election petition for House of Representatives for Ezinihitte Federal Constituency between Chief Finbarr Ochulo and Hon Jude Okezie at the Tribunal in which Hon. Okezie won in 1991. In 2004 the claimant was counsel to Lady Pat Njoku in the Election Petition case between Lady Pat Njoku V. Obinna Onumah. The petitioner, Lady Pat Njoku won. The certified copy of the Tribunal’s judgment in LGCET/1/2004/OW/IMS: Lady Patricia Njoku V. Obinna Onuama delivered on 29/11/2004 is hereby pleaded and shall be founded upon. 

18. One of the recent election petition successes recorded as a result of the claimant’s expertise was the case between Agbakwuru V. Nnanna Igbokwe for the Ahiazu/Ezinihitte Federal Constituency in the 2011 elections in which the petitioner (Agbakwuru) won and the election of Nnanna Igbokwe was nullified. The claimant was counsel for the petitioner. The Court of Appeal judgment in CA/OW/EPT/45/2011: Agbakkwuru V. Igbokwe is hereby pleaded and shall be founded upon at the trial. The 1st defendant cannot claim ignorance of this fact, being a journalist and an Mbaise man.

19. The claimant also was the lead counsel in the most celebrated Presidential election petition case in Nigeria between Mohammadu Buhari & Anor and Umaru Yar’Adua both at the Court of Appeal which was the Court of first instance in presidential election petitions, and at the Supreme Court where a decision of the apex Court was 4 to 3 (a set target yet to be beaten in Nigerian political cases). The claimant represented Mohammadu Buhari. It takes malicious blindness not to see this achievement as a remarkable success.

20. The claimant who is from Ahamba Royal Family and is thus Prince of Lorji who was specially conferred with the title of ‘Ugo Chi Nyere’ Lorji (Ugo Lorji) and Nze Ogbuagu of Lorji, and who has Chieftaincy titles in Aboh-Mbaise, and beyond, is also a Knight of St. Christopher of the Anglican Diocese of Owerri conferred in 1988.

21. The claimant also belongs to various professional and humanitarian bodies some of which are: 

The Nigerian Bar Association; 

The International Bar Association; 

Council of Knight Diocese of Owerri (Ang. Communion)

Rotary International.

22. The claimant was the chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association Owerri Branch for two terms. He was also President of Rotary Club of Owerri from 1987 to 1988, and has held other numerous positions which include the recent appointment as a member of the National Conference 2014 by the President of Nigeria.

23. The claimant is the most Senior of all the Senior Advocates (SAN’s) resident and practicing law in Imo State, Abia State, Ebonyi State, Rivers State, Bayelsa State, Akwa-Ibom State and Cross-Rivers State. This position was not earned because the claimant happens to be the most Senior by natural age or age of call to Bar, but because of his excellent performances in his profession and total commitment to his clients.

24. The claimant has not done anything to irritate, annoy or ignite the annoyance of the defendants that could warrant the publication of this damaging, derogatory, desperaging and false publication against the person of the claimant. The claimant’s involvement in the Governorship Petition between Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and Governor Rochas Okorocha is consistent with his professional calling.

25. The claimant has been embarrassed with very excruciating emotional pains and has been subjected to public ridicule both veiled and overt especially the publication having been targeted at this political dispensation, the 1st defendant knowing fully well that the claimant is well known and acknowledged practicing politician and potential petition lawyer. For the first time the claimant is engaged in only one election petition trial which was already pending at the time of the defamatory statement.

26. Some of the many people who read the defamatory words are Mr. Kenedy Eweama, Mr. Lawrence Nwahiri, and Sabastine Nwosu.

27. Evidence of some of the pleaded facts of the record of successes of election petition cases will be led during trial.

28. These few easily verifiable examples of election petition recorded legal successes are enough to enable any person devoid of malice, assess the gravity of the falsehood the defendants have visited on the legal luminary, and which has visibly attracted public odium on his capacity to handle election petition matters to the extent that when the Governorship petition between Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha Governor Rochas Okorocha was dismissed interlocutorily the expression ‘did Sam Onwuemeodo not say it?’ reverberated in Imo State and beyond with very negative commentaries  against the capability of the claimant in election petition cases.

29. The claimant pleads the letter of his counsel to the 1st defendant dated 21st July, 2015 by which notice of intention to sue was served and by which a demand for an apology was made.

30. This letter was to give the defendants particularly the 1st defendant an opportunity to retract the malicious publication and apologize. But he failed to heed to this advise.

31. The 1st defendant rather wrote to the claimant letter dated 6/8/15 without concretely accepting to apologize. This letter is pleaded.

32. The claimant pleads his reply to the 1st defendants letter of 6/8/15. The claimants letter dated 11/8/15 is hereby pleaded.

33. By this false and malicious publication the claimant has been badly defamed and consequentially damnified.

34. Wherefore, the claimant claims from the defendants, jointly and severally as follows:

(a) Two billion Naira (N2,000,000,000.00) damages for libel by the defamatory publication in the ‘White Paper’ Newspaper edition of 8th-9th July, 2015.

 (b) An injunction restraining the defendants their agents, privies and servants from further publication of the libelous material against the person of the claimant.

(c) An order directing the defendants to tender public apology to the claimant by 

(i) writing a well worded statement of apology for the defamatory publication of 8/7/15 & 9/7/15 subject matter of this suit, and other dates. 

(ii) a publication of the apology on the back page of three consecutive editions of ‘White Paper’ Newspaper and two other local Newspapers.

 (iv) text of the apology to be approved by counsel to the claimant.

Dated the 2nd day of September, 2015.

C.C. Okoroafor, Esq.

Counsel For The Claimant

Whose Address For Service 

C/o Iwoha Chambers 

14 Mann Street, Owerri

For Service On Defendants:

1. 1st  Defendant:

C/o Office of the Press Secretary

to the Governor

2. 2nd  & 3rd Defendants

13 Oduobi Crescent

Ikenegbu, Owerri.

[Attachment “B”]

Governor Rochas Okorocha Is Threatening My Life

Press Statement – For about two weeks now, leaks from the Government House have carried the information that Owelle Rochas Okorocha and his cohorts have been concerned about me and my key witnesses, particularly Mr. Emmanuel Iwuamadi of Ngugo, Ikeduru, over the pending governorship election petition between him and Chief Emeka Ihedioha. The very reliable information came from three different unrelated sources connected to Government House. I happen to be the Lead Counsel for Chief Emeka Ihedioha and the PDP in the Election Petition.

I was informed by these sources that Owelle Rochas Okorocha who is generally rumoured to have a hit squad had instructed them to stop me and my Special Assistant who is a key witness, if I continued to remain stubborn to his warnings to me to withdraw the election petition. Since I had received threats in the course of engaging in this profession before now, which threat I have always ignored, I assumed the same attitude although the Governor had issued warnings to me directly and through my wife after the burial of Honourable Justice Mary Peter Odili’s mother at Obizi on 13th June, 2015. I had treated those warnings as a social joke. It now appears that I got it all wrong; it appears that Owelle means business.

I decided to issue this statement for information of the Nigeria Public at home and abroad and security agencies of this nation following the information received after Owelle’s last meeting with Imo State Traditional Rulers, during which he insolently stood Traditional Rulers from Mbaise area of Imo State up and sent a threat through them to me to the effect that if my client and I persisted in prosecuting this petition he would extract his ‘pound of flesh’ from us. With the reportage of this meeting by a national daily of high repute, the This Day Newspaper of 3rd July, 2015, it would amount to irresponsibility over my personal security, those of my clients and witnesses, and the future of my family and numerous dependents if I continued to treat the threat as a social joke. This is not a case of thirty ducats as in Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’, but about human lives.

My being counsel in this Election Petition is consistent with my professional calling which I have practiced for forty-one (41) years (1974-2015) out of which 23 years have been as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Since he has just celebrated his 50th birthday, it means he was only nine when I started practicing law! I started appearing in Election Petition Tribunals in 1979. Owelle must be made to understand that he cannot stop me now, and that he is putting himself at risk with my God.

I am not issuing this statement out of fear because, as always, I refuse to be intimidated. But Owelle Rochas Okorocha who has mustered five (5) Senior Advocate in his defence should have the courage and maturity to allow them to do their job, and allow me to do mine.

I hereby call on the Security Agencies, to whom I intend to make available copies of this statement to protect us as we commence the Tribunal proceedings on Monday 6th July, 2015. Prevention will always be better than cure. I do not, and will not ask for Tribunal relocation.

It may be necessary to note that as I was preparing this statement, news reached me that the bailiff attached to the Tribunal has been shot last night. To save Democracy in Nigeria is a task that must be done!

I have always believed, and still believe in “justice for all, at all times, at all cost”. On this I stand, even now.

Chief Mike Ikenna Ahamba, SAN, KSC

 

Ugo Lorji. 

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